In 1987, Peter Falk hadn’t made an episode of “Colombo” in nine years. And it would be another two before ABC picked up the show and filmed new ones.

That year, while “Columbo” was in limbo, Falk acted in two brilliant movies: The Princess Bride,” playing a grandfather who reads to his grandson, and “Wings of Desire,” playing himself.

“Wings of Desire” is a German movie. In it, Falk, as himself, is in Berlin because he has been hired to act in a movie set in 1945.

Falk called this “The craziest thing that I’ve ever been offered.”

“Wings of Desire” is about angels – eternal beings – who listen to, document, and try to console people. This is not “Touched by an Angel” or “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Though children can see the angels, adults cannot, and the angels are not able to physically interact with humans. They can, however, hear people’s thoughts and by touching a person, communicate a feeling of hope.

Sometimes hope is successfully transmitted and leads to encouragement, to an effort to perk up and shake off feelings of woe. But sometimes a person’s despair is too great, and hope is ignored.

Peter Falk’s role in the film – as in “The Princess Bride” – is a small, but important one. Though “Wings of Desire” is not a comedy, Falk has some humorous scenes.

In one, he is working with a wardrobe mistress trying to find the perfect hat for his 1945 character. He tries on hat after hat, and the two of them give reason after funny reason for the rejections.

In another, Falk, during a break in filming but still in costume, goes for a walk. Some young men come along. One of them thinks the man they passed is Columbo, but the others disagree. What would Columbo be doing in Berlin in that moth-eaten coat?

The angels, when near Falk, spark awareness in him.

“I can’t see you, but I know you’re there,” he says more than once.

“Wings of Desire” is character-driven, so it’s a slow-mover. Also, angels can’t see colors, so most of the film is in black and white.

Nonetheless, “Wings of Desire” is one of the finest, most beautiful movies ever made. I recommend seeing the entire film. The ending is so much more powerful if you’ve watched from the beginning.

However, if you start to watch and are overcome by the deliberate pace, the poetic dialog, and having to read subtitles, rather than give up, jump ahead.

How far ahead? Way ahead. Pick up at around an hour and 26 minutes, which should bring you to a forlorn angel lost in thought as he rides a bus. The next scene is Falk taking a walk and looking like Columbo to the young men. Watch from there to the end. I won’t judge you. Neither will the angel.

At archive.org there is a choppy but viewable copy you can see for free. A beautifully restored copy can be rented for a few dollars on Amazon.

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